Reviewed here, the new Speed Racer film is so frenetic, freakily colored and aggressively fake, you'll watch the first seven minutes convinced that someone has laced your popcorn with a powerful hallucinogen. There's a silver lining to Speed Racer's psychedelic vomit, however: the film has inspired our nation's film critics to some of their most creative turns of phrase in years. Who will win the race to write the best, nastiest quip?
Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" got the week off to an impressive start:
"Put 80 pounds of fireworks into an industrial dryer, crawl right in there with them, turn it on and then light the fuse. It'll give you a good idea of the visual onslaught you'll be enduring."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott concedes:
Yes, the colors are hot, the set design is cool, and the sidekick chimpanzee is cute, but the action sequences â the hyperreal video-game kineticism on which the Wachowskisâ reputation for virtuosity has rested â are chaotic and nonsensical. The sleek computer-animated racecars flip, jump and slide from side to side, but few of their feats elicit anything like the amazement or surprise of, say, watching moderately skilled teenage skateboarders in a parking lot.
MSNBC's Alonso Duralde suggests:
"Imagine someone pouring hot, melted Starburst candies into your corneas, and you just begin to approximate the experience of Speed Racer...â
The Village Voice's J. Hoberman, before piling on as many art design references as possible, reveals:
"Production design" is a poor term to describe Owen Paterson's avidly garish look. Gaudier than a Hindu-temple roof, louder than the Las Vegas night, Speed Racer is a cathedral of glitz. The movie projects a Candy Land topography of lava-lamp skies and Hello Kitty cloudsâpart Middle Earth, part mental breakdownâusing a beyond-Bollywood color scheme wherein telephones are blood orange, jet planes electric fuchsia, and ultra-turquoise is the new black.
The Onion A.V. Club's Scott Tobias charitably acknowledges:
In the early going, the whiz-bang editing and searing primary colors in Speed Racer work like a sugar rush, but the crash from all that overstimulation is enough to reduce grown men into sobbing infants. The Wachowskis may be guilty of being too far ahead of the curve: Maybe children one or two generations down the road will be able to process 135 minutes of manic, kitschy inanity, but for now it goes down in one big indigestible lump.
The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, characteristically describing the latest would-be summer blockbuster as the end of Western civilization (and apparently having forgotten the existence of the old "X" rating), sniffs:
A four-year-old will be reduced to a gibbering but highly gratified wreck; an eight-year-old will wander around wearing a look that was last seen on the face of Dante after he met Beatrice. But what about the rest of us? True, our eyeballs will slowly, though never completely, recover, but what of our souls? I reckon the M.P.A.A. should use the advent of âSpeed Racerâ to revive an old ratings symbol: a big Roman X, meaning âof no conceivable interest to anyone over the age of ten.â
Hollywood Bitchslap's David Cornelius lives up to the name of his outlet when he laments:
The filmmakers obviously have no idea how family films are supposed to work - watching Speed Racer is like watching Spy Kids as remade by people who have never met children before. And so we get major plot points and longwinded monologues about stock trading. Stock trading!
Ain't It Cool News' Massawyrm geeks out:
In what will most assuredly become the stoner movie of a generation, Speed Racer is a seizure inducing, Technicolor nightmare that can only be described as something akin to what an 8-year old sees after coating his Cocoa Puffs with Nestle Quik, Pixie Stix and Fun Dip before chasing it down with a Jolt Cola and then jumping up and down to make sure the whole concoction is well mixed. It is sugar-coated insanity racing at 200mph, bouncing off the walls, screaming at the top of its lungs and seeing colors you never thought existed. It is the movie Willy Wonka will heretofore project onto the walls of that batshit crazy ass tunnel of his.
Despite all the strong contenders, I'm going to wave the checkered flag for New York magazine's David Edelstein, when, with appropriate brevity he observes:
The film is like a nightmare in which youâre trapped in an arcade with screens on all sides and no eyelids.
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros.)